The Iowa State offense started the game with a touchdown and led 7-0 early. Then, the Iowa State defense came out and forced a three-and-out on Oklahoma State’s first drive.
Everything was going according to plan.
Until Mason Rudolph and Justice Hill got into rhythm for the Cowboys.
“That’s as good of an offense we’ve played against,” said coach Matt Campbell. “Dang. You get them into some big third downs and we couldn’t finish.”
Oklahoma State went 5-for-13 in third-down conversions, but those five were part of Rudolph and Hill’s success today as Iowa State fell to Oklahoma State 49-42 in the last home game of the regular season.
Rudolph came into the game as the Big 12 leader in passing yards with 3,314 and continued that dominance against the Cyclones. The senior quarterback went 25-for-31, an 80.6 completion percentage, with 376 passing yards.
Along with the yardage, he found his players in the end zone three times with four receivers having at least four receptions each. The biggest target for Rudolph today was redshirt senior wide receiver Marcell Ateman.
The duo connected twice for touchdowns. One to start the scoring for the Cowboys in the first quarter and the other to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
“I mean Mason [Rudolph], he’s the leader of that team,” said redshirt senior Joel Lanning. “He gets that team going and makes plays for those guys.”
Going into this weekend, most of the talk between players and coaches was how they would contain No. 2, Rudolph. They talked about the fact he can run the ball on crucial plays, while also having plenty of receivers to throw to if needed.
He did both of those in today’s game against Iowa State. He found his receivers during crucial times, especially in the fourth quarter when he connected with Ateman to tie the game and Dillon Stoner to take the lead.
In between the first and fourth quarter, it was Hill’s time to shine in the backfield.
Coming into the Iowa State game, Hill led the Big 12 with 1,064 rushing yards. He will continue leading the Big 12 after his performance against the Cyclones.
Hill ran for 134 yards, while also punching into the end zone three times. Lanning said the Cowboys tried to mix things up from what the Iowa State defense was expecting.
“They were doing some things differently than what we were expecting,” Lanning said. “Running wise, they were running the ball outside pretty good on us and we were kind of expecting it to go inside a bit.”
Hill took advantage of that game plan and scored back-to-back touchdowns in the second quarter to take the lead and later in the third quarter to take the lead again.
The Iowa State defense has been known for two things in the second half of this season. One is creating turnovers and winning the turnover battle and two, stopping offenses in the second half.
Both of those seemed nonexistent against Oklahoma State.
The defense lost the turnover battle today as the Cowboys had a late interception to seal the win.
“We lost the turnover margin,” said redshirt junior cornerback Brian Peavy. “It’s something we talk heavily about, but [Oklahoma State] did a good job with taking care of the ball and we didn’t execute correctly.”
Before the Oklahoma State game, Iowa State’s defense gave a total of 62 points in the second half over nine games, an average of 6.88 points per game. Today, the Cyclones gave up 28 points in the second half.
That’s the most second half points the Iowa State defense has given up in any game this season. It all comes back to the play of Rudolph and Hill and using the run/pass game efficiently.
“They didn’t change at all,” said redshirt senior safety Kamari Cotton-Moya. “They’re known for scoring points and being a defensive captain our job is to stop the offense from scoring so many points.
“And we didn’t do that today.”